On Thursday I noticed that my left shoulder was feeling a bit painful, and on Friday it got progressively worse. I started applying topical ibuprofen gel on the joint at lunch time, and taking oral paracetamol, but by the evening it was clear that this was not working, and my hubby took me to A&E to get it checked out. Rather than going to Torbay Hospital, where we might have been kept waiting for over 4 hours, particularly on a Friday evening, we went to Newton Abbot Hospital A&E – not 24 hours, and for minor injuries only. We had taken Mum there on several occasions when she’d bashed her legs, and you don’t usually need to wait.
We were seen immediately by an efficient young doctor who took a pretty thorough medical history before examining me, and observing that there was severely limited mobility in the shoulder, and considerable pain, he said he didn’t think the problem was arthritis, but more likely to be muscular, and asked if I had injured myself, which I did not think that I had – I can’t remember doing anything untoward. He put my arm in a sling and told me to rest it as much as possible, and to continue with the pain relief I was already taking, but warned that I may need something a little stronger, such as an over-the-counter (OTC) codeine.
I had an extremely bad night. My hubby had to help me undress. I am very glad of my adjustable bed which meant that I could sleep in a semi-reclined position.
On Saturday things continued to be simply awful and my hubby bought me a pack of Solpadeine Max (a combination of codeine and paracetamol) and I was able to speak to the pharmacist on the phone while he was in the shop – I said I was worried about not being able to take more than 4 doses in a 24-hour period, with a maximum of 8 tablets during that time. She suggested alternating the Solpadeine with the topical ibuprofen gel, and by taking each, alternately, every three hours, I was able to cover the 24-hour period adequately, and while there have been periods over the weekend of extreme pain, mostly it has been managed by this regimen, as long as I have not tried to move my arm.
I have been unable to dress and undress myself, or to cook, and could not do this week’s ironing – my hubby has taken over the cooking again – something I thought was well in the past after getting over my cancer adventure last year. Going out, I cannot propel myself in my wheelchair (unless I want to go round in circles!) and have to be pushed, which is horrendous. So much for my new-found freedom with my bus pass!
The doctor told me to monitor how things went over the weekend, and if things were no better on Monday (today), I was to phone my GP and also make an appointment to see a physiotherapist.
Since things had not improved by this morning, I took his advice, and we phoned the GP’s surgery this morning; the doctor phoned me back and asked me to come in. We saw him mid-morning and he confirmed what we had already suggested, that I am suffering from adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder. This condition is more common in women than in men, and is commonest in my age group (early 60s) and more common in the non-dominant arm (as in my case, the left arm). It is a long-term condition and I can expect it to go on for at least 2 years… However, the acute phase with the severe pain is likely to be self-limiting, and the main problem may be limited mobility, but physiotherapy can help with this.
He gave me a steroid injection into the joint, which I hardly felt – I was expecting this to be extremely painful and was pleasantly surprised that it was not – he said that the shoulder is usually relatively pain-free as far as this procedure is concerned, unlike the elbow or knee. He has given me a prescription for Naproxen, a NSAID, to take twice a day, and after about 10 days to contact him again and let him know how I am getting on. The injection should start to take effect during the next 24-48 hours. He gave me a leaflet regarding setting up a physiotherapy appointment, which I have now done, and await news on that – it should be sometime this week.
I am extremely fed up to be so restricted again in what I can do. I was just getting used to having my life back, and being able to enjoy doing all my domestic tasks, and baking, and art, and guitar-playing… I asked the doctor if I would be able to play the guitar, and he said he thought I would – he said he had not got a frozen shoulder and couldn’t play the guitar lol!!
He said I should monitor any possible side effects of the Naproxen; the commonest is constipation. I have already noticed that with the codeine, the output from Kermit, my stoma, has got extremely thick. It’s not a problem, but it makes it slightly more difficult to manage, especially with a painful arm! I just have to watch out for pancaking and blow-outs…
Until this afternoon I could not type with my left hand, which was making things extremely slow and frustrating, typing with one finger! However, I have now discovered that if my arm is supported, and I rest the heel of my hand on the laptop, I can type without moving my arm above the wrist. I think this is how I must proceed from now on – I refuse to allow this to restrict what I do, and I am just going to have to find different ways of doing things. Once the severe pain stage is past, things should be easier, and the physio may have some advice about different ways of doing things.
In the meantime I’ve done a bit of online research and found some exercises recommended for the condition, starting off very gently and gradually progressing as things improve. I am determined to face this head on and do all I can to get back full mobility in my arm if possible.
It is very interesting about auto-immune conditions. They say that auto-immune diseases hunt in packs – if you have one, you are likely to have others. I have M.E., and until my cancer dealt with it, ulcerative colitis. I was concerned that the M.E. might start to feel lonely and that my body might produce another auto-immune disease to take its place, and what do I discover in my researches, but that adhesive capulitis may well be an auto-immune condition! Oh well, I suppose it could be worse!